Daily Archives: 2012-05-12

Day One : Kathmandu to Lukla to Monjo

Distance covered* 10 km *Lukla to Monjo

Altitude gained * 2840m to 2835m *-0.5m (!)

Today I began trekking to Mount Everest.  I got to the airport early and checked in. I thought it was funny that they only wanted me to check my collapsible walking poles, not my smallish yet densely packed bag.  I charged my phone up at the power source in the airline office knowing that I would be charged dearly for electricity from this point on. A group about a dozen of us piled into the small prop plane. We had tremendous views all the way and very few turbulence. It was slightly disconcerting to see one of the pilots reading the newspaper while we soared over the deep valleys and rice paddy terraces.

Shortly after we took off, we began to descend. After marathon flights over the years, this was definitely one of the shortest but probably the most scenic. The 1500 foot single runway was just long enough to catch us as we glided in with marked precision.  I will admit, I held my breath until the plane came to a complete stop.

The others had skipped breakfast so I waited as they devoured an insanely expensive cinnamon roll. Little did we know, that would be the first of many overpriced bakery items we would be tempted by over the next few weeks. When they were done, we suited up and started walking.

The path was pretty obvious and I decided to forgo buying a map. It seemed pretty hard to get lost when there were hundreds of people spread out over this 65 km route. It took me less than five minutes to stumble and fall. Luckily, there was no damage other than my pride. I brushed off and kept walking. We passed many shops and small villages this day while taking in the gorgeous scenery. I was amazed at how warm it was and didn’t even really feel any different even though we were already at over 2800m altitude.

We walked and walked stopping sometimes to snap photos of the exceptionally stunning countryside. We had decided to trek all the way to Manjo which would be ten miles of some of the most gorgeous nature I have seen in a while. Every now and then, I would glance up rather than down to admire the looming mountains surrounding me. It may have been one of these careless moments which caused me to trip over a rock. I took a nasty spill and ended up with not only a badly injured knee (now I have a pair of purple knobs) but a bloodly fat lip. I literally bit it and hard.  M and M doubled back and tried to minimize the damage. They wiped the dirt off my face and helped me shake myself off. The kept telling me it wasn’t as bad as it was all the while giving each other “the look”.  Nevertheless, I spent the rest of the trip with a limp and what looked like half a moustache and bad case of face herpes. I guess I wasn’t out here to win a beauty contest but come on!

By the time we reached Monjo, I was at the end of my rope. I wanted to stop an hour ago but the others insisted somewhat ruthlessly that we press on. I didn’t realize they had to buy their park pass which drove us further than we actually had to walk. I had already organized mine back in Kathmandu so for me, the extra effort was pointless. If there is one thing I hate, its inefficiency.  That coupled with the biting wind that had kicked up made for a very grumpy Carmella.

Luckily the guesthouse was warm and friendly serving up some decent grub. The bare bones rooms cost only 100 rupees which is just over a dollar so they charge a lot for food. I didn’t care that I had to pay for hot water since I had brought all my favorite teas. I saw the envy in the other’s eyes as I prepared my version of spicy coconut ginger tea in my enormous thermos.  Everyone knows that tea makes me very happy.  And today, that tea warmed me up from the inside out.  We made a few new friends as we all sat around in the communal dining area where the trekkers, guides and ports all gathered. We all cheered when they lit the fireplace and the whole room got cozy real fast.

I surveyed the damage on my knee and promised myself I would make sure not to give into the pressure to keep pace with the others. If I arrived a few minutes or even an hour later, it made no difference. We just sat around doing nothing in the lodge for the rest of the day so I may as well take my time and enjoy the scenery. What was the point of rushing? I, for one, was in no race.  If nothing else, this was a practice in slowing down.

I bundled myself into my down sleeping bag and covered myself with the extra blankets we finagled.  I had my thermals on and I was toasty warm. The only discomfort I experienced was the frequent bathroom breaks I had to take downing all that tea.  Here was another lesson I learned hard and fast. In any case, I slept like a log.

Grateful for moderation.

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Trekking to the Top of the World – Pre-trip Preparations Kathmandu

 

I have no idea what possessed me to embark on a walk in some of the harshest terrain in the world, enduring some of the worst temperatures I have had to survive for years, living without common niceties like showers, plumbing, infact there would not even be heat in the places  I would sleep. Ok, this may sound a little nuts for someone who spends majority of her time and energy avoiding the cold like the plague. So why am I doing this? I guess  part of me wanted to challenge the laziness and apathy I have been experiencing over the past few months. And what a better cure of my recent curse of severe clumsiness? All this falling down stairs and walking into walls just has to stop.  Trekking among the highest mountains in the world oughtta do it, right? Climbing almost 100 km through the Himalaya wilderness to the highest altitude I have ever experienced is just what the doctor ordered. Or so I thought.

I spent a couple days wandering in and out of the glut of trekking stores in tourist laden Thamel. I had a few administrative errands to run including getting my TIMS permit ($20 USD) which would register me with the Nepal Tourism Board and the Sagarmatha Park pass which cost a thousand rupees ($12 USD). Luckily I got both of these within minutes at the same place. Then I made the short jaunt over to the Immigration office where I would extend my visa for another two weeks for thirty dollars.

While I was waiting for them to process my extention, I met a Danish lass called Marianne. She just so happened to be going on the same hike on the same day so we decided to keep each other company. I was intending to do this trip solo but I reasoned it wouldn’t hurt to make a few friends along the way. She said she had met another Canadian the day before, Mark from Calgary, who would make our little team three. I knew this would quell my mom’s nerves as she expressed some deep concern about me wandering around the remote parts of Nepal alone. At least now if I fell off a cliff, there would be someone there to witness it and report back. There would be no tales of Yetis kidnapping , this young lady, no siree. I met up with my two trekking buddies the next day and we booked our flight to Lukla. It was only 35 mins but it was a serious flight into the most dangerous airport in the world. The night before, I reconsidered my gear and at the last minute rented a puffy yellow down jacket for 35 rupees a day. That’s less than 6 dollars for two weeks to ensure a happy warm Carmella. Money well spent, I reckon.

Since I would be taking time away from the kids at the school I have been volunteering at, I decided to dedicate my trek to them. I set up a quick and dirty Facebook event for Klimb for Kids. I didn’t know if anyone would participate but it was worth a try. And perhaps it could make a difference for a child. At least this effort wouldn’t be in vain.

I packed my new 5 dollar 35 liter backpack with my “real fake” designer hiking gear. I glanced nervously at my new ten dollar unbroken in hiking shoes. Needless to say, I was a little worried but something inside propelled me forward. I didn’t sleep that night. I am not sure it was from excitement, fear, or anxiety. Probably a little bit of all. I was about to embark on something I had never dreamt of. Could I do it? Honestly, the thought of not finishing didn’t even cross my mind. I would do this if I had to crawl there on my hands and knees.

Grateful for spontaneity.

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